Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Flowers of War by Geling Yan


December 1937. The Japanese have taken Nanking. A group of terrified schoolgirls hides in the compound of an American church. Among them is Shujuan, through whose thirteen-year-old eyes we witness the shocking events that follow.

Run by Father Engelmann, an American priest who has been in China for many years, the church is supposedly neutral ground in the war between China and Japan. But it becomes clear the Japanese are not obeying international rules of engagement. As they pour through the streets of Nanking, raping and pillaging the civilian population, the girls are in increasing danger. And their safety is further compromised when prostitutes from the nearby brothel climb over the wall into the compound seeking refuge.

Short, powerful, vivid, this beautiful novel transports the reader to 1930s China. Full of wonderful characters, from the austere priest to the irreverent prostitutes, it is a story about how war upsets all prejudices and how love can flourish amidst death.


The Flowers of War is a novel set in 1937 which depicts the Nanking Massacre. In fear for their lives, a group of prostitutes flee the Japanese atrocities by climbing over the walls of convent and church where young school girls, some from elite families, are being educated. At the forefront is the priest, Father Engelmann who is entrusted with the school girls lives. What ensues is a desperate story of survival from hunger, murder, and oppression. 

The Flowers of War is novel that exposes the full atrocities of that period. It is very much a story of innocence vs. sin, of good vs. bad as the contrast between the personalities of the prostitutes and the school girls clash. Although the writing is simple and easy, the story itself is incredibly poignant with an expolosive ending that will not soon be forgotten. This is a story that will definitely touch readers.